Aftermath: Ward vs Kovalev 2
Andre Ward secured a TKO victory against Sergey Kovalev on Saturday night in a light heavyweight bout that has caused frenzied debate and discussion. In the aftermath, Callum Rudge, Chris Williamson, Michael Montero and Martin Chesnutt discussed the crucial talking points...
BM: Before the stoppage - which we will talk about later - how were you seeing the fight?
CR: I thought Kovalev was winning the rounds with his jab, Ward was landing the odd flashy shot and nullifying a lot of Kovalev's work but not doing enough to win rounds. I had Kovalev 5-2 up. He was complaining a lot about borderline low blows and had made a decision to not fight fire with fire. For me most of them were on the waistband so not low and I can see why referee Tony Weeks told Kovalev to continue.
MM: I had Kovalev up 5 rounds to 2; he had out-landed Ward in five of the first seven rounds and was doing the more consistent work. However, he seemed to mentally check out in the seventh round out of frustration.
CW: As expected, the fight was close and competitive. I had Kovalev in front and was really looking forward to finding how the Russian would react as and when Ward turned up the heat.
MC: A very similar pattern to their first fight, Kovalev some early success, but Ward adapting, changing the flow of the fight, and taking control. I had Kovalev up 4-3 at the time of the stoppage.
BM: What was your view of the stoppage?
CR: Kovalev was tired and looked to be tiring from about round four (did he under train this time?) He was hurt badly by a big right hand and Ward was exceptional when he jumped on him, switching between head and body and cutting off the ring brilliantly. Ward had him pinned in the corner and, while I think the last shot or two were low, Kovalev wanted a way out and should've been given a count by Weeks as he sagged on the ropes. The stoppage was very early for me but it was coming.
MM: Tony Weeks not only missed the low blows, but any time the ropes are holding up a fighter, it should be counted as a knockdown. Kovalev should've been given five minutes to recover from the repeated fouls. But even if Weeks missed that, he should have counted a knockdown, sent Ward to a neutral corner, and given Kovalev a ten count. A poor job from Weeks, and a lacklustre night overall from the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
CW: Appalling. I'm with Michael Montero here. Ward had hurt Kovalev with a terrific right hand but even if the 'body' blows Ward landed were legal - which they weren't - then the stoppage would have been horribly premature. As it was we had a premature stoppage based on a series of fouls and referee Tony Weeks somehow called it a legitimate TKO. Nonsense like this provides ammunition for those who perceive the sport as a freak show which is such a shame when the best are fighting the best. It might also discourage away fighters from travelling. I'm getting bored of myself here but why were all four officials American in a top level one-on-one contest between an American and Russian? Utterly absurd.
MC: The stoppage, despite Kovalev being hurt by that huge right hand, among other shots, didn’t feel right. Kovalev didn’t do himself any favours by not taking a knee - he was looking to the referee, Tony Weeks, at several points during the bout - but in a championship fight, the referee should have given Kovalev more time. He was hurt, but not staggering. Was Ward low? Yes. And you can’t excuse ‘a little bit low’. As early as the second round I noted, ‘Ward low?’. I think he knew what he was doing. However, ultimately, Ward was able to change the tempo, which he did at the beginning of the fourth round by starting very quickly and putting a lot more into his punches. Kovalev doesn’t become a bad fighter overnight, but Ward did make him look a bit of a one-trick pony.
BM: What next for both men?
CR: After the fight Ward talked about moving up to cruiserweight but I can see him retiring now. A lot of the top cruisers will be tied up by the World Boxing Series (which is looking great) and while I think there's some great challenges at 175lbs, there's no one who will get Ward excited enough to box again. As for Kovalev, he has to rebuild. There were clearly some issues in his camp for both fights and while he was tactically better this time, his conditioning was worse as was his mentality. I think he spent so much time after the first fight playing the victim that he brought that mindset into the fight, showing out for borderline low shots, turning his back on Ward. The aura around Kovalev has been shattered and it'll take some time to get that back.
MM: Hopefully Ward stays active and fights again in the fall. Can a bout with Adonis Stevenson be made? History would lead us to believe that Andre would be unwilling to travel to Montreal or make any concessions. Hopefully this will not be a hurdle.
CW: Ward seems to be eyeing the heavier divisions but I'd love to see a fight between either Ward or Kovalev - both of whom I'd favour - against Adonis Stevenson. I'd also like to see a third Ward vs Kovalev fight with neutral and competent officials!
MC: For Ward, I hope a fight with Adonis Stevenson can be made. The winner of that fight is definitively the light heavyweight champion of the world. Ward spoke about moving up, but I don’t think that makes sense. He did well against Kovalev, probably the biggest, strongest fighter at 175lbs. It’s a huge weight jump to cruiserweight, and I think Ward would be giving too much size and power away. Kovalev will need time to get his head together after losing both times in what may be his career-defining fights. He’s still a terrific boxer and a fearsome puncher, but he will probably have to work his way into a mandatory position before any big name agrees to face him.
BM: Is Andre Ward now the number one pound-for-pound boxer in the world in your view?
CR: He already was. You have to judge on wins and while the first fight was close, Ward rightfully won and now has taken the rematch too. Ward cleared up at 168lbs and now has two wins over Kovalev and three of the belts - couple that with Roman Gonzalez's dip in level and narrow loss last time out and it's a no-brainer to make Ward the number one fighter in the world.
MM: Ward is pound for pound number one by default, but I don't believe he will hold that position long. Fighters like Crawford, Lomachenko and the Canelo vs Golovkin winner are nipping at his heels.
CW: Jeez - P4P debates give me a numbing headache so are not something I like to consider very often. I'll say no for now, if only because I'm so irritated by last night's fouls, unjust outcome and the sport's tendency to self-flagellation!
MC: I suppose he is, having won back to back P4P fights, but I think a case can be made for Golovkin if he beats Canelo in September, also a P4P fight, which would be his 19th consecutive middleweight title defence.